In this post, I share how to Consciously Approach Agile so we build lasting high-performance in our organizations. It’s a proven framework for creating success with Agile.
Why we need a new Approach
It is well understood in our industry that Agile is failing due to lack of attention to the organizational system and culture in particular.
- In 2012, I started publishing industry research showing Agile failure and culture challenges
- In 2016, we continue to see 80% of organizations having culture challenges
- In 2107, this continues to be a severe Agile industry challenge
Doing things the same way from the same way won’t work.
We need a new paradigm.
Consciously Approaching Agile for Lasting High Performance
I introduce an approach that I have proven through years of development and experimentation. Hundreds of students of my Certified Agile Leadership Training all over the world have validated this.
The diagram below shows how to approach Agile from a different consciousness. I will walk you through step by step how to approach change in a way that supports lasting success.
Let’s walk through the steps …
Step 1. Start with a desire for Agile (or Innovation, Digital, DevOps, Engaged Workers, etc.)
Let’s say that you want the full benefits of Agile – you want Agile to produce faster delivery, better products, or increase operational effectiveness. If you have an Agile Transformation or some Agile Initiative, this is a good starting place – there is desire and interest in improving the organization.
Note: Everything I am sharing here fully applies to Innovation, Digital, DevOps & other approaches that require a shift in mindset and culture. I am using Agile as an example since that is where I spend most of my time.
Step 2. Create an organizational and cultural context suitable for Agile
The first thing we do here is to drop the “Agile blinders” that only see things from an Agile perspective. To stop seeing things from a just a team perspective.
Instead, we look from an organizational and cultural perspective. We know Agile, Digital, etc. will flourish when we have the right organizational and cultural context.
In order to do this, we Drop Agile as goal and focus on org goals. Please refer to Agile is a Means not a Goal for a detailed explanation of why this is needed and how we may do this.
“Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast.” – Peter Drucker
When we look at the Agile Manifesto, we see that Agile is actually pointing to a culture system that supports high performance.
- In 2011, I used the Schneider culture model to articulate that Agile is about collaboration and learning (cultivation) culture.
- In 2015, I use the Laloux culture model to highlight that Agile is about engaged workers and high performance.
Success with Agile requires us to focus on culture. There is no other way. (Unless you are in one of 5% or organizations that already have an amazing culture).
3. Leaders go First
Who is responsible for creating and shifting the organizational and cultural context? Leaders! Organizational Behaviour Follows Leadership Behaviour. Culture change requires leaders who model the new behaviours and ways of working. Leaders who lead.
Most Agile initiatives have tell-tale signs that there are challenges around this. It’s not enough when we can say “We have leadership buy-in” or “We have leadership support”. That is sufficient for adoption of Agile practices. However, the culture change needed for high performance requires highly invested leaders. Places where people say “We have leaders who are inspiring us.” We need Leadership Leadership.
4. It starts with Us
In high performance organizations we see leaders at all levels. We see leaders who build other leaders around them. That where we all can play our part. Regardless of your role, lasting change starts with us. We need to examine our own behaviour and take a serious look at ourselves to see how we are shaping culture. We can only lead others when we model the new ways of working. Success requires that we model Agile at a personal level. And not just a new technique or concept.
What is required is that we actually live the Agile values. We model excellent listening, respect, collaboration, courage, etc. I have started speaking about this as Wave 2 of Agile: Living Agile and plan to write about it soon.
Do This Now
The most critical and practical thing to start Consciously Approaching Agile is to Conduct a WHY Workshop to discover the organizational drivers for Agile.
Here is a health check list so you can do a reality check. Do you and your leadership team:
- Trust each other deeply?
- Admit to making mistakes?
- Ask for help or admit limitations?
- Challenge each other to get great outcomes?
- Show they are deeply committed?
- Hold themselves and each other responsible?
- Focus on shared outcomes and not their department?
- Create leaders at all levels of the organization?
If you answered answered no for some of these, then your leadership and organizational culture would benefit from investment and focus. Another resource you can use is an earlier organizational transformation checklist.
Where to Learn More
Read my blog or join me worldwide for my unique Certified Agile Leadership Experience (CAL1) to learn a detailed playbook for how to deliver high performance in your organization.